Homework and Helicopter Mums

Naimish Gohil founder of Show My Homework, explains how homework is putting our nation’s mums to the test

Every parent will have experienced the endless homework battle at one time or another. With the polar extremes of constant nagging about homework to your one-word-answer teenager, right through to being a shoulder to cry on when it all gets too much, our nation’s mums are the ones being put to the test by homework, never mind their children.

Imagine the scenario: It’s 8 o’clock on Sunday evening, the shops are shut, you’ve just finished the daily washing, cooking, cleaning and everything else your family needs. It’s time to put your feet up with a well-deserved cup of tea when Jacob, (aged 15), tells you he can’t do his homework for tomorrow morning.

But we all know what you’re thinking, ‘How can this be?’. After a weekend of playing ‘helicopter mum’, hovering over your child to find out what homework he has to complete, he has assured you that he’s on top of it (albeit through a series of grunts) and that he definitely has time to spend glued to Grand Theft Auto or beating his high score on Candy Crush.

So how do you react? Well, surely Jacob has written it down, hasn’t he? Technically, yes, but an illegible scribble that just states “Ingredients for Food Tech” and “English essay draft one,” isn’t much help at this point. Quickly, your methodical questioning instinct kicks in, and before you know it, you’ve asked everything from which day it was set, through to which of Jacob’s friends he can ring for help.

When he slopes off to his room, apparently defeated, you quickly feel the panic setting in and take it upon yourself to do the worrying on his behalf. This burden is one that mums face each and every day, concerned about how the teachers will judge their parenting or their child’s organisation, and how this will affect homework reports, progress, and ultimately, the difference between a grade boundary. This sticky situation is one that all too often results in a parent trying to complete the homework for them, by piecing together notes and instructions to produce something, anything, to combat this chronic homework headache 

Homework helps to consolidate everything a child has learned. The completion of homework assignments is crucial and it should be enforced with a child. Doing homework helps children develop organisational, time management and self-study skills that are essential for academic success. More importantly, it provides opportunities for children to develop fluency with the materials they learnt at school. Information and materials will only be retained if they have been successfully transferred into long-term memory. This information transferral into long-term memory can be enhanced through ‘overlearning’ (i.e. questioning and practice after learning).

Homework, accompanied by regular and high-quality marking and feedback by teachers, can help parents better understand their child’s learning progression, whether they are on track, and how they can improve.

At Show My Homework, we think that homework should be well planned, interesting, engaging and set on a regular basis with prompt and high quality teacher feedback. This provides students with routine, habit and a knowledge of what to expect. This, in turn, takes the pressure off learners to write down homework in the classroom, and allows less room for error in the details. We’ve given ‘power’ back to parents.